Argentina’s Los Glacieres National Park is full of it – I mean ice!

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Looking to explore Argentinian Patagonia but don’t know where to start? Everyone has heard of Buenos Aires, but Argentina also has some of the most incredible natural beauty on Earth outside of this vibrant city. Located in the southwest province of Santa Cruz, Los Glaciares National Park is home to awe-inspiring glacial lakes, mountains, and subpolar forests sure to take your breath away.

Despite the name, Los Glaciares National Park does not only house ice and snow. In the park’s Northern area, hikers can drink in the spectacular views of the

Mount Fitz Roy, the highest peak in Los Glacieres National Park, provides striking views and a challenge for mountain climbers.

lakes, rugged mountains, and ancient stone structures.  So let’s get started on our discovery of the park’s most incredible features, how to get there, and just what to do once you’ve arrived.

Getting to Los Glaciares

Los Glaciares National Park is divided into two halves: the northern half, comprising Mount Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, and Viadmo Lake, and the southern half, which includes major glaciers like Perito Moreno and Upsala, and Lake Argentino.

The easiest way to get to the spectacular southern glacial area is from El Calafate – a small town just outside the park’s borders. From here, rent a car or schedule a tour into the park’s center.

The town of El Chaltén at the base of Mount Fitz Roy serves as the base for hikers heading to Los Glacieres National Park.

For those traveling from Buenos Aires, catch a flight from either Aeroparque or Ezeiza International Airport to El Calafate. The whole journey should take around 3.5 hours, with a 30-minute taxi or bus ride into the town center once you’ve arrived.

The glaciers advance during June and December and recede between December and April. For the best experience of this incredible natural wonder, time your visit during the advancement months, as large glaciers like Spagazzini, and Perito Moreno will be at their most impressive.

If you want to see the mountains and hiking trails, make your way to El Chaltén at the base of Mount Fitz Roy. The best way to get to this adventure town is by renting a car or let others deal with the details and take a tour or hire a guide.

So Much To Do

Around half of Los Glaciares is covered by ice – explaining how this heritage-listed park got its name! By far the most impressive glacier, however, is Perito Moreno. Over 19 miles in length, with a maximum height of around 200 feet above water, this ice wall is both awesome and intimidating and is one of the biggest draws for visitors from around the world heading to the park.

Life in the glacial park isn’t just about ice and snow – no matter your fitness levels, traveling experience, or personal preferences, there is something for everyone! Here are some of the best activities to get involved in during your visit to Los Glaciares for a truly unforgettable experience.

Hike and Become One With Nature

For those not interested in glaciers, Los Glaciares offers fabulous hiking opportunities across the rugged mountain ranges located in the park’s

Amazing natural sculptures of ice in the form of icebergs create nature’s art gallery on Lake Argentina.

northern half. Among the most iconic peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy lies some of the best walking trails that wind through the Los Glaciares, with options for everyone from the keen mountaineer to the casual hiker.

Mini-trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier.

The best way to access the hiking trails is from El Chaltén. Founded in the 1980s, this Patagonian town was built for the sole purpose of providing a base to adventurers wanting to explore the northernmost mountains of Los Glaciares.

For the experienced hiker, Laguna De Los Tres (also known as the Fitz Roy trail) is one of the most popular trails for a multi-day adventure and snakes around for spectacular views of Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding ranges. However, if you want something more low-key (without sacrificing the breathtaking scenery), try your hand at Mount Vespignani. This easy hike is perfect for beginners and is easily accessible during all weather.

A word of caution – the northern half of the park is at high altitude, and those unaccustomed to the thinner air may experience altitude sickness. Pack appropriate supplies like sufficient water, sunscreen, and chocolate before heading out – compounds in the delicious dessert help moderate nausea and dizziness, and are great for an energy boost mid-way through your hike!

Explore the Ice on a Mini-Trek Adventure

The most popular activity for visitors to Los Glaciares is the mini-trek. For 90 minutes, you’ll don crampons attached to your shoes to  wander across the surface of Perito Moreno immersing yourself in the extraordinary natural beauty of the national park.

Glaciers are not static ice formations – instead, they are constantly moving and changing, and crevices and cracks can develop quickly and without warning. Due to the dynamic nature of Perito Moreno, visitors must join an authorized guided tour to take part in a mini-trek – many of the dangers of the landscape are difficult to see, and it’s easy to fall or injure yourself without proper guidance.

Mini-trekking is available all year-round, except for between June 1st and July 20th when the weather becomes too volatile. Perfect for hikers of all ages and fitness levels, mini-trekking is the ideal activity for those who want to experience the glacier without committing to a full-day exploration.

The reward for completing a trek on the Perito Moreno is whiskey (or other non-alcoholic beverage) with glacier ice!

Travel in Style During a Boat Excursion

For those who want a more deluxe experience of the glaciers, consider adding a boat cruise to your itinerary. Leaving from outside El Calafate, these luxury cruises cut through the waters of Lake Argentino in the shadows of the park’s most spectacular glaciers.  You can enjoy a delicious gourmet lunch in the shade of Spegazzini (Los Glaciares’ tallest glacier) before traveling along the awe-inspiring lip of Perito Moreno and Upsala glaciers as the afternoon sun makes the ice glow.

Enjoy not only the waters but also land on a day long boat excursion on Lake Argentina where you see glaciers, icebergs, some wildlife and beautiful scenery.

There are boat cruises to suit every budget and taste, but the best way to experience the magnificent ice mountains is on an all-day adventure – while you won’t be hiking, this is one activity sure to leave you breathless!

Kayaking Along Perito Moreno

You don’t just have to walk on the glacier to appreciate their raw natural beauty. If you’re not afraid of the cold, kayaking along Perito Moreno is the perfect way to experience the park from a different perspective. Designed for all skill levels, kayaking is an excellent activity for families, young travelers, or those looking to step outside their comfort zone.

Before your tour, you’ll be fully kitted out in thermal suits, drysuits, boots and gloves, and given proper instruction on how to navigate the waters of Lake

Argentino safely. If the idea of being so close to the glaciers makes you nervous, don’t fret – knowledgeable guides are careful to keep groups at a safe distance from the walls of the ice in case of any unexpected splits or calving.

Guided tours run from El Calafate daily, and you’ll gain a unique view of Los Glaciares’ largest glacier, as well as some local history from an experienced guide. Warm up after your kayak with some spiced hot chocolate, and take home photos of an adventure that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Kayaking allows you to get a personal water-based experience with the Perito Moreno glacier.

Let a Wizard Plan Your Adventure

If you’re keen to explore the beautiful Los Glaciares National Park, contact me today! Whether you’re an enthusiastic outdoor lover, or want to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this unique region for the first time, I can help you plan the perfect adventure that will take your breath away – and not just from the cold!

Pat Ogle-CollinsArgentina’s Los Glacieres National Park is full of it – I mean ice!
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Two lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!

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If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, there will be much debate on which exciting cities, charming towns and endless scenic viewpoints to visit.  With limited time, you really need a solid travel plan to make the most of this country with its picturesque mountains, lakes, beaches and forest to explore.

Many travelers feel torn between the South Island destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. The good news is they are both wonderful places to visit and you will have a fabulous time at either one. The bad

Aerial view of Queenstown with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (mountains) .

news is, it’s hard to pick. So I’ve laid it all out, like a delicious picnic on the beach, to help you decide between beautiful Wanaka and lovely Queenstown. Or you always have the option of seeing both places if time allows.

Queenstown

Landing in Queenstown, you will look out the plane window and be amazed at the aerial view of majestic mountains and pristine lakes. Then you go from the runway to your cozy accommodation in lightning speed time since the airport is close to downtown Queenstown.

To get your adrenaline going, try a jet boat ride on the Shotover River thru beautiful scenery.

Hiking is a popular activity for Queenstown visitors, with the Queenstown Hike being a rewarding challenge. If you prefer more of a pretty meander, the Queenstown Gardens path is wrapped around Lake Wakatipu and makes a lovely place to take in the fresh air, nature and wildlife without breaking a sweat.

For thrill-seekers, Queenstown is an exciting playground with attractions like bungee jumping, luge rides, jet boats and sky diving readily available. Adrenaline junkies rejoice at the thought of Queenstown’s adventure sports options and even if you are not brave enough to join the daredevils, watching them play can give you sweaty hands. A gondola ride up the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car ride can also get the heart racing.

Excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment such as Kiwi bands playing at cool venues mean you will be kept busy for however long you stay in Queenstown.

Wanaka

By air, you will land at Queenstown Airport then drive for about an hour to reach Wanaka. The scene is more laid back and quieter than Queenstown, but just as gorgeous, with Lake Wanaka being a vision against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. One of those mountains, Iron Mountain, is wonderful for trekking and reaching the top is exhilarating. Catch your breath, then start taking photos because this will be one of the most photogenic sights of your day. Roy’s Peak is another Wanaka gem if your fitness

View of the South Island’s town of Wanaka on the lake of the same name.

level is reasonable. Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain is a bit easier and also has the wow factor when you reach the top.

Wanaka, like Queenstown, has plenty of extreme sports and thrilling activities to experience. Hold on tight when the jet boat roars through the chilly Lake Clutha water, then go horseback riding across scenic lands. Not scary enough? You can pretend you are James Bond and bravely cross a jiggly suspension bridge then repel down a powerful waterfall. Another fun-packed experience is taking The Cardrona Bike Park chairlift to the highest point, then mountain biking down.

The Wanaka area is also known for wine with vineyards extending to the shores of the lake.

Wanaka is also home to many wineries and vineyards where you can sample award-winning wines and meet the winemakers who are so passionate about winemaking. Specialty tours for novice tasters and connoisseurs are designed to entertain and educate both the mind and the taste buds.

Hiking, biking, mountain biking and blissful walks surrounded by nature are as easily enjoyed in Wanaka and Queenstown. The accommodation, dining, shopping and facilities are also great in both places and in terms of cost, there isn’t much difference.

So it really comes down to what activities you would enjoy most, how much time you have, and if you prefer a buzzing tourist scene like Queenstown offers or a slightly more low-key experience like Wanaka serves up. The nightlife in Queenstown is hopping, while in Wanaka, you can let the barman give you the last drink before closing and still get an early night.

If skiing is your buzz, then Queenstown is a popular base with world-class ski facilities 30-60 minutes away at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Cardrona. You can hit the slopes from Wanaka too, or enjoy leisurely wine tastings.

Again, you could squeeze in time at both places. Using Queenstown as a base and making a day or overnight trip to Wanaka can be a good plan. All good road trips to Wanaka include a stop in the historic mining town of Arrowtown just out of Queenstown. The Arrowtown Bakery has fresh pastries that are legendary.

So Wanaka versus Queenstown – still find it hard to choose? Give me a call and I’m sure you’ll be able to decide after our conversation and it will be only one stop on a trip thru scenic and friendly New Zealand – a trip you will talk about for years to come.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTwo lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!
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This South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!

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Going on a safari is probably one of the popular ways to explore South Africa but it isn’t the only one. If you are interested in taking the “road less traveled” when in South Africa, consider including the Garden Route in your itinerary. The outdoor paradise has perfect weather year-round with monthly highs of 25 degrees in the hottest months and 18 degrees during the coldest ones. To be clear, this popular area isn’t a garden but rather a 200-kilometer coastline filled with versatile natural features.

A diversity of environments along the Garden Route including coastal areas and rainforests, wildlife, and landscapes means there’s something for everyone.

Driving the route takes three to fourteen days depending on the number of stops in your itinerary. The route is filled with detours so it is the best way to experience one of the most beautiful regions in the country at your own pace. Luckily, South Africa has one of the most developed road networks in the continent with the N2 highway on which the Garden Route runs being the perfect road for a self-drive trip through forests, by lagoons, along the coast and into towns – a trip that is not only known for its scenery but also its wildlife and culture.  You can start your self-drive road trip from Cape Town, stopping by various towns, parks, and attractions before winding up the journey in Port Elizabeth. The Garden Route which stretches from Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is considered on of the endpoints of South Africa’s Garden Route.

to Storms River showcases the culture, hospitality, and beauty of South Africa and is a “must-see” for adventure lovers.

Start your journey at Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay, the gateway to the Garden Route,  lies less than 250 miles from the coastal city of Cape Town. Drivers can stop by the many cafes along the road for a snack as they make their way to St Blaize trail to stretch their legs.

Your trip to Mossel Bay is incomplete without visiting the famed Post Office Tree, shaped like a boot. Although it’s said to have been in existence since the 1500s, you can still use it to send letters to various destinations or even back home.  Mossel Bay gives you a scenic start to your trip with an idyllic coastline covering most of the route.

Experience natural beauty at Knysa

Lush forests and the glistening sea water surrounds Knysa, a popular town on the Garden Route. One of its main attractions is the Knysa Heads, two sea cliffs that guard the entrance to the lagoon. Exploring Knysa can be done while hiking or on a cruise with both options promising panoramic views of the area. If you decide to hike, you get to explore the scenic trails that lead to waterfalls and rivers. Hundreds of yellowwood trees that are 400 to 800 years old are easy to spot in the lush forest vegetation.

Knysna Bay, South Africa

Other trees in the surrounding forest are pink-flowered Cape chestnut and stinkwoods in which different bird species build their homes. If you decide to go for the cruise expect a bumpy ride to Knysa Heads.  Multi-hued and jagged rocks line the sea edges allowing you to get close to stunning scenery while watching sea animals swim nearby. The eastern cliff has a narrow gap that offers a beautiful viewpoint of the islets at the lagoon as the sun sets.

Enjoy the Tsitsikamma National Park by taking an excursion thru the Storm River Gorge.

Besides natural beauty, Knysa is also home to rehabilitated elephants at the first sanctuary of its kind in South Africa. The orphaned herd of elephants provide a unique experience for wildlife lovers exploring the Garden Route. Visitors are given a presentation on safety around the elephants before walking with the elephants and feeding them. Interaction with the elephants varies depends on how well they cooperate, but most times the experience is great for those that follow instructions.

Explore the beach at Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is a hiker’s paradise that offers stunning ocean views to those that get to the top of the slope. Its breathtaking beaches are surrounded by sheer cliffs that are perfect for watching the sunset. Nearby is the Robberg Nature Reserve which stretches 2.5 miles showcasing prehistoric caves and rocks. The bay is a breeding area for several waterbird species, and seals that can be seen basking on the beach or bobbing up and down in the water. Surfers can also spot dolphins and whales in the water during the migration season, providing an amazing show.

Test your limits at Bloukrans Bridge

Imagine bungee jumping off the highest bridge in Africa as part of your trip. The 718 foot high bridge is architecturally stunning, with an arch going over the steep gorge below. Getting to the bungee bridge is on a zip line, a taste of what to expect when you finally jump off the bridge. Once secured, you are ready to take the world’s highest bungee jump that comes with an “out of this world” adrenaline rush. The adventure doesn’t end there, with visitors opting for a winch ride or using the skywalk to get back to land. If

Bloukrans Bridge provides a great jumping-off point for those interested in bungee jumping.

you are brave enough, you can enjoy spectacular views of Bloukrans River on the underside of the deck.

Stand at the mouth of Storms River 

Although Storms River is the last stop of the Garden Route, its dramatic coastline makes it worth the stop. Located in the Tsitsikamma National Park, watching the point at which the Storms River and the Indian Ocean meet with the ocean pounding the headlands is a therapeutic experience. If you are interested in an up-close look at the coastline, consider hiking up the gorge following well-marked trails in the indigenous forest. The trails which lead to secluded waterfalls and the famous Suspension Bridge hanging over canyons are worth checking out for thrill-seekers. Expect to see an abundance of flora, fauna, vervet monkeys, and diverse exotic birds. The tree-shrouded strip is also a great place to relax while visiting several shops, restaurants, and refueling at a local microbrewery.

A suspension bridge crosses the
Storm River in South Africa’s Tsitsikamma
National Park on the Garden Route.

Not a fan of a self-drive trip? Relax because driving in South Africa is fairly easy. All you need to do is rent a vehicle, and soon you’ll be discovering the Garden Route stopping and exploring on your schedule. If you choose to extend your safari to include this stunning coastline, you are assured of a memorable experience. Call me today, and let’s start planning your trip to South Africa’s Garden Route.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!
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